Electronic payment solutions provider Hypercom is promoting the uptake of fingerprint biometrics for the authentication of credit card customers at the point of sale.
Under Hypercom's system, a simple finger-scanning pad will be added at the point of sale, which creates a digital descriptor from the image of the fingerprint. The descriptor is a 256 byte number calculated from a 'map' of some of the finger's bumps and hollows which, coupled with the card number, provides a unique identification match for the credit card owner.
The descriptor generation process is one way - it is not possible to recreate the fingerprint from the descriptor, says the company. Fingerprint images are not transmitted from the point of sale, nor are they stored in a database.
George Wallner, chairman and chief strategist of Hypercom, says: "The need to bring fraud under control (estimated to reach $4 billion globally by the end of 2001 - and growing fast) requires that the industry takes urgent and positive steps now."
"We feel that in many regions smart cards will not arrive soon enough to effect fraud. Therefore there is a need for a technology that can prove positive ID for both smart cards and existing magnetic stripe cards," he adds.
Fingerprint ID is immediately compatible with magnetic stripe cards and smart cards by using online verification against a distributed database. Magnetic stripe cards always need online checking whereas longer-term, smart cards would allow off-line operation, where the fingerprint descriptor would be stored on the smart card.
"As most transactions are performed online, adding fingerprint validation to existing magnetic stripe transactions does not create a major time overhead" explains Wallner. "Tests have shown that online transaction times are increased by 1.5 to 3 seconds when they include fingerprint ID. That is comparable to PIN entry and signature times," he says.
According to Hypercom, fingerprint ID has the potential to eliminate over 90% of all card related fraud, compared to 35% for smart cards. Additionally, fingerprint ID can be implemented for about $100 per point of sale.